tv Tavis Smiley PBS October 10, 2009 12:30am-1:00am EDT
= = tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. first up tonight, ou conversation with acclaimed novest and screenwriter nick hornby. ny of his best-sellingooks have bee turned intomovies, including "hh fidelity" and bout a b." his latest is called uliet, naked." also tonight, karen armstrong is here. it the best-selling autr is now leading a critally claimed project called "the case for god."
hat is coming up right now. >> there are so many thing that wal-mart is looking foard to doing, le helping people live better. but mostly, we're hping build stnger communities and relationships. th your help, the best is ye to come. >> nationwi insurance prdly supports "tavis iley." tavis and nationwi, working tother to improve fincial literacy and the economic emporment that comes with it. >> ♪ natnwide is on your si ♪ >> and by contributions your pbs station om viewers like u. thank you. [captioning made possie by kcet public television] tavis: nick hornbyis a
perennial york tis best selling writer and screenwriter who many projects have been turned into vies. his latesis calle"juliet, aked." his latestilm that opens this weekend is call "and educion." here'a sneak preview. >> you have no idea w boring everything was before i met you. acons are character, our glish teacher says. i ner did anythin before i met you. sometimes i think nobodyas ever donenything in this whole stupid countr apart from you. tavi books,movies. you keep tis up, you might make
something of yourself one y. >> i cann see that mom's still doenot think so. tavis: i will let you explain the story line. >> it is short piece of autobiogphical meir, and it is about aaffair that she h when sheas 16, 17 years old, the begiing of the960's with an unsuitae older man. tavis: why that project? obvious, it lot of your books have bn turned into mies. why did you want to adapt a peace? >> ere were a couple of things. i thought the tone was interesting. fiction, i a always looking for stf that is fun and sad, aost projects get into a groove and stayhere. this piece was painful a very funny i loved e way that it swited
in that way. it was about a time that i did not know much about, the 1960's in london. it is not the swinging 60's, it has not happened yet. t is a country right on the cusp of enormous changeand i found a compelli. tavis: i am compelled to ask, what is itabout this dualitof funny and sad tt has to be there to get your attentio >> fst of all, i think that is what life is. i did t see why we shou have novels that cannot cntain a single im like that. some of myavorite writers ar people who do that. when get to the end of a book like that or mie, you feel like you have been somewhe emionally, if the place. vis: now to the new book, uliet,aked," explain the
title. >> disappointingly, it is abou a record album i guess we're pas the stage whe making a book title may persuade peoplto purchase. that is about a sing- songwriter whose eat work, great break out album is cled "jult." 20 years lar, the record ompany rleases the demo version, hence uliet, naked." it is about what happens wh this record comes out in the world with profound effects on the artist and fs. tavis: to tell this paicular story, did ts story have to be wrapped aroun music, a musical artist? why thatenue? >> i wante to write about art, and that was partly r me why mmer means something to some
people t not others. i also want to write authenticity anart and whether that is importan there are a lot of ings in that. i gues pary it is about iting, but i amot sure that people are a interested in riders about micians. tavis: whenou say authentici and o, unpacked at for me? >> some people think somethi's come strght from the soul and are raw a that automatically means is a great wo of art. thgs that are contrived are not great works of art. it is not a theorand necessarily bscribe to. some commercial music, some of the great hollywood films of e 1940's, they were maitream confection that they turned into works of art. ey survived. i do not ink that is necearily tru that how it is attainedutomatically.
tavis: even thou motown was commercial andrittenff for white al business -- for ite audiences, for you it was auentic? >> it still is, anyway tavis do you believ that, that authenticity is bese the pot, ois that only apply to art? >> i doot want to say that th people. i think i d belie thatwith art, but i do n think it is particularlyelevant in discussing the sucss or otherwise of aroject. tavis: what for you makes a piece ofiterary work authtic? >> i think if it imeant and fell to -- and felt. there arlots of bks that are wrien for other reasons than that, and i did not want to
particularly read them. i did nt write the book becau i nted to be paid for it. there were many hereasons. i think that you can telthat. tavis: letme follow y there. when youet to your level o being a perennial nework times best selling iter, most of yo books become movies, if you ar not writing for money at your level, why are y writing? >> exacy the sameeason when i stard. the felt like something inside that had to com out and it had to be scratched. if i did not wre for a few months, i start to feel uncomfortable. there is a need for me to do it. that need has not been satiat. tavis what is the writing processlike, now that you are not writi because you are out talkingo people like me, regrtably for you -- >> it is betr than work.
tavis:ut you are doing the book tour,utwhen you are in writing mode, what is the process? >> i have an office at my home. ave a one-bedroom apartment. i ke ofice hours. i drop my kid offt school and i buy myself cofee and then i go to myffice. e idea is that do a day's wok and go home. e reality is that a check for emails, move arodn the intern, i write three sennces, time for anoer cup of coffee. tavis: ioticed that you said your office is a 10-minu walked outside o your home down the street. could you right fr your home? i'm trying to figure out the stance. >> i think it is some type of professionasm, for a start. it means that i have to t
dressed in the morninga job where i have to wear clothg. the minimum requement. so there ithat. i haveids, and they're not very conducive to ring at home. i jus leave all the sff there. work is worked, and i do not have to ve loads ofpapers and pieces floating around. the truth about a writer' life, you ha to start working anyway becse it isn your headnd you take that me with you. tavis: do yoever get writer's block? if so, how you move beyond that >> i think tha writer's block is a colossal loss o confidence. you belie at you cannot wre for it that you cannot think of what you want toay. i tnk what it mns is that he's there at what you have writtenn the page and you cannot uerstand why this would be of interest to anyone other than yourself. i cannot belie that ay writer
with h cell -- worth his salt does not affected by it at some point. i ink another tngs to keep the outside world bay, not to re -- i do not read reviews, i do not google melf. that richard kiplingethink about keeping imposters the same, tt makes sense to me. it is keeping your confidence steady and plugging ay. tavis: said she believes that no writ worth his or her salt does not have writer's ock at some point, i assu that mea you have been there before. when you get there, how did you navigate beyond that? >> itis not very easy. usually, some kind of computer me is involved. tavis: first i hed that answer before. >> getting miserable playing
solaire. pentially, there comes a point or self athing takes over at and i get away from the computer. vis: since you know that nowadays most things tha you writ you tell me, mae before you sta writing, but tse ays since she kne that most things that you writsomebody will wanthe optionto turn it in a movie, how does that impact your process? you sai earlier that you write because of aitch that have to scratch. i suect we know people are waiting to p you a bunch of money to tn it into a movie, does it ev impact your procs? >> think i have been very lucky in the firscouple of books that i wrote, oneas a memoir bout myself. the oth one was"high fidelity." ey seem to me not to be vies anyway whatsoever. "high fidelity" was set-- was set in somebody's he. i think it wasdifficult to adap
there was a lot of junk hus talking into the camera. it me sense to them -- there was a lot of john cusak talkg into the cama. in other wordsi am writing extly what want to write, and someh, someone for some reason wants the option anyway. no, tha the short answer. it doenot affect me at all. i do not thin people reaze, if yur book as recognizable characts and a narrative and also the book has some kind profile, i will get options, if not by a stud than by a 2 year-old english proder who has st up office next door at some point in the process. there is no point in thinking about it beuse you know what happened. how long tavis: before we see "juliet, naked" on the scrn? >> theres a lot of stuff happeninright now. i have a couple of books lo in
the process somewhere, fourr five yea i would imagines about avere. tavi the new book by nck hornby is called "juliet, naked. nick, nice to he you on the prram. >> it waseally good to see u. tavis: up next on the program, kar armstrong. stay with us. kan armstrongs an acclaimed ligion writer whe many notable boo incle the best seller "a history of god." her latest is called "the case for god." why do we fe at this point in history that there nee to be a case made for god? at is happing with this onslaught of books by and in defense of athsm? what we need to make a case for god? >> there h been difficulty in
religion in e moment. during the 17th century, we changed our conception of god quite dramatically in the western world. we started thinking about gois something that we could prove as a being. we stopped thinki of got as symbol thapointed to something beyond itself, what theologians call the god beyond god, and turned thasymbol into hard fact. en of course scienccomes along and seem to disprove the reality of this being. people i think are confuse despite our scientific and technologic brilliance, often think abou god and emarkably developed, even imitive way. tavis: is under atta? >> god is der attack. i am not happy with the kind of viousness about a lo ofour debate aut religio because one of the thingi have found
after 25 yrs of studng is to quarrel about religion is counterproductive it in bed you in a type of egotismand all spiritual writers tell us that it i ego that kes us back from an apprehension othe divine. tavis: there's be a lot of discussion in thi count about civility in ousociety. how then do weindourselves in a spe of civility aout the got a question, about religion? >> i think we havto goack to basics. all the wld religions insist th there is one important ingreent that is the test of any true religion, and it is compassion, the abity to put yourself in thelace of somebody else and treat em with absolute respect that i tru whether you are confucian, hindu, buddhist, thomas, or athing.
to denigrate or spe despair selling -- disparagingly of other pele's ieas is a denial of something that is be abou and nobody has the st wo on g because god goes beyond anything at we could say or no. -- could s or know. tavis:without denrating others, wha-- were does karen armstrong began in blding the case? >> basicallythat religious knowlee is learned by practice. relion is a pctical thing, like swimming or driving, dancing, gnastics. you cannot learn these things by reading a book. you have t get into the water and len how to float. dcer will have to practice years and years. en she is finished, she will
beble to do things th the human body would think would initially be quite impsible. religiouseople have ne this with the hearts and minds, and most ofur religious subjects are notetaphysical facts that we havto belve, they are programs forction. they are telling us how to beha. th goes for somethingike the incarnation or the eternity, -- or the trinity, as well as it does with other rigions. ese are religions of actice. christnity, too. during the enlightenment, when we became sorational, we turned religious knowledge int something notiol, which we had to accept and believe, insad of something that we praiced. it is ha rk, region. it is not just a questio of singing a couple of hands or reciting a creed -- it is n a
question of seeing a coue of hymns or reciting creed. oga for emple wasot an exerciseo help you lose weight. it was originally systatic breakdo of egosm and selfishness thatrees you from th prism of pretty selfish -- selfishness that holds us back from the divine. tavis: let me ask the politically incorrec question, not the last time i will so, but how much of the fact that we now he to make a case for god has to do withan's rogance, living longer, anbeing able to do stuff that never thought we could do? born from arrogance, combid with cynicism. ever -- that isot to say that everagnostic that i kw is
nical and arrogant, though i know somehat a, t homuch has to do wi cynicismin society d the arrogance of humankind? >> i think arrogance is reled togo, of course. yes, we thinkhat we have sauc out all the problems of the univee -- tt we have ssed out a the proems of the universe. scientists arelso discoveng how littlehat we know abou the unerse, th the certainty ishat we thought sir isaac had are gone and the univee is ch more mysterious. not knowing is built into the human condition. therare always things about experience, ands that, i is threcognition of that th brings us happiness. i thinkhere is also an emptess, matter-of-fact. i think we are meeti at seeking creares. dogs do not spend much time
agoning abouthe k9 condition, the plight of dgs in the afterlife, but we do. if wdid not find it, we faln to despair. religion not here to answer questions about theniverse, which can to an extenfind out by our own reasong, but to help u deal with those aspects life which we cnot contr old age, sickness, ath, and happiness, the suffering of chdren, the plight of people, our fellow humaneings. cruelty to o another. it is these terrible questio that religion hel us deal with and toive peafully and creatively and compassionately in the midstf the suffing thais inherent in life. tavis: to the nonbeliever tching or listening right now, how does a belief in god help
onfind meaning, and does one have to acknowlee god to have a li of meaning? >> what we call god is poting to something thagoes beyond anything that we can kn. 're not talking about any certain knowledge, but the practice. that is not just believing which we have made a fetis of and the west the last cple hundred years, but it is the practice of compassion that selflessne, day-by-day, all day, every dayhat gives youan enhanced being. i used to ben extmely spiteful human being,ery unhappy, veryefensive. since i ha been studying religion and trying to undo mylf of my clerness and understand people w lived and ote hundreds of years ago, i found it has changed my attitude to ople in daily li. you feel riche
i mentioned t dancer earlie the dancer whlearns to do wonderful physical feats, which feeds on rthly grac so human bein have by getting d of all that petty sfish things that hold us back achieve enhanced humanity an a sense of pee. it transcended say -- transcenden. but it does not ce easily. avis: it seemso me withall the debate about whether ere is a god and having to make a case for him, those of us who believe, it is a practice. the living, what you tald about, thatis the diffict part. how muof the diminhment of our beef then gis in the fact that we dnot really want to pactice this stuff.
>> if you are not going to practice it, i mea nothing. it is likthe rules of a board game ou know that when you pick up the instructions and start reading tse things, and terminally dull and boring, then you pick up the dice and you stt to play and everything falls io place. hese doctrines or beliefs make no see unless they are translated into ethical, ritual action i havtried to show in the bo how these believes were originally structure to lead to action, and then you get it, then you starto understand what thdoctor is trying to tell us. if u put it into practice, yo find that it tells youomething profouly trueeven if that uth is notactual or demotrable scientifically. tavis: i am always delighted to
speak wh karenrmstrong, and sh has a new book out right now called "he case for god." karen, nice to have you onhe program. >> a h been wonderful. -- andas been wonderful. tavis: access our rio podcast on pbs.org. i will see you neime. until the the nht from.a., and as always, keep the faith. >> for morenformationon today's show, visit tavis smiley on pbs.org. tavis: hi, i am tavis sley. join mnext ti for our conversationwith michael sheen on his new fm. that is next time will see you then. > there are so many thingshat wal-ma is looking forwardo doing, like helping peopleive better but mostly, w're helping buil stroer communities and relationships. because with your lp, the best yet to come.
>> natnwide insurance proudly supports "tavis smiley." tavis and nationwide, working together to prove financial literacy and the enomic empowermenthat comes with it. >> ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ and by ntributions to yur pbs ation from viewers like you. thank you. [captioninmade possible by et public televisi] captionedy the national ctioning institute --www.ncicap.org--